Cecilia Woloch
    Cecilia Woloch, active in the American literary scene for over twenty years and well-known to poetry fans, conducts workshops all around the U.S. and Europe, and is the recipient of numerous awards. Of her five collections, Carpathia, from BOA Editions Ltd, is the most recent. Cecilia’s “anti-bio” on her website tells us a bit more: she drives a pickup truck and can climb into and out of it in a cocktail dress and high heels. She speaks decent French. She knows a lot about Bolsheviks and gypsies. She has instructed the criminally insane. 
    Cecilia’s poems are mournful country western songs elevated to high art, minor-key arias that wind their way through the lonely streets of Tulsa and Memphis but, in their worldliness, approach and penetrate the gates of Budapest, Prague and Paris. Cecilia writes pure poems free of archness or pedantry but packed with duende, poems in which the honeymoon ended long ago and now it’s the poet alone with the shadows, the moon, the wind,  the cliffs, the night, the twilight, alone with candlelight, curtains and a little soft jazz. Cecilia Woloch is a master of form, free verse and prose poetry. She writes poems that flow effortlessly and yet supply magical surprises; they cry out to be read out loud. Luckily, we’re allowed to hear her read some of them today.


East India Grill Villanelle

Across the table, Bridget sneaks a smile;
she’s caught me staring past her at the man
who brings us curried dishes, hot and mild.
 
His eyes are blue, intensely blue, hot sky;
his hair, dark gold; his skin like cinnamon.
He speaks in quick-soft accents; Bridget smiles.
 
We’ve come here in our summer skirts, heels high,
to feast on fish and spices, garlic naan,
bare-legged in the night air, hot and mild.
 
And then to linger late by candlelight
in plain view of the waiter where he stands
and watches from the doorway, sneaks a smile.
 
I’d dress in cool silks if I were his wife.
We try to glimpse his hands — no wedding band?
The weather in his eyes is hot and mild.

He sends a dish of mango-flavored ice
with two spoons, which is sweet; I throw a glance
across the shady patio and smile.
 
But this can’t go on forever, or all night
— or could it? Some eternal restaurant
of longing, not quite sated, hot and mild.

And longing is delicious, Bridget sighs;
the waiter bows; I offer him my hand.
His eyes are Hindu blue and when he smiles
I taste the way he’d kiss me, hot and mild.





Beauty
How lackluster the world would be if we didn't die.
-- Holly Prado
I.
 I decide finally to leave the house in late afternoon, when the sun's less harsh. When Los Angeles, parched with heat, starts to drink its own shadows, forgive itself. I drive five miles to the canyon to walk; park on a side street. Get out. Breathe. The air's turned tawny and cool by now; people are hiking here, walking their dogs. I take the trail skyward, as high as it goes, though scrub and brush, past gnarled manzanita, the whisper of sea grass, then turn to look: the city in miniature, spread at my feet; the first lights of evening blinking on. The horizon is streaked with rose, shot gold; a jet cuts through clouds in a silver arc. I think how my father will miss this world. I think of how we can't kill beauty, how beauty can't be killed. It's nearly dark by the time I walk down. A woman ahead of me, swinging her arms.
 
II.
 We're hanging new curtains tonight. Two of my friends have come to help; they're drilling holes in the walls for the curtain rods and it's taking a while to get right. So we decide to stop and eat. I call for some Indian carry-out. When the bell rings, I dash downstairs with a handful of cash to pick it up. The delivery boy is a fair-skinned female, just about my age. I tip her and notice a shopping cart parked in the street, heaped with bottles and rags; another heap next to it, piled on the curb. Upstairs, my apartment seems vacant, fresh, with all the windows bare. We're passing the curry around the kitchen table when red lights start to flash. An ambulance. Blue lights. Police. We look out to see what's going on. The heap of rags has become a woman who has fallen into the street. The cops are trying to talk to her, trying to get her to come along. The paramedics have pulled out a stretcher; they've gathered around her and lifted her up. "It's cold out there," one of us says. "They're taking a lot of time with her." When I look again, later, the street is empty, even the shopping cart is gone. My friends finish hanging the rods and I hang the curtains, lovely and sheer. "This way, the sky will get in," says Ed. Who is Ed? Who is anyone?
 
III.
 At 2 a.m., I switch on the computer to check for messages. I'm expecting a note from my mother: the report about my father's condition she sends me every night. The blank screen blinks then fills with text. We had to laugh, I read. He was finally awake. He was yelling my name. My father who's lain for days in the ether of sleep between life and death. He pinched us when we were trying to clean him up. We had to laugh. I smile and type our a reply: I'm glad you're having a little fun. I think of my father lashed down in that bed, shrunken and bent: half bird, half man. How they've covered the mirrors with sheets so he won't have to see himself like this. How my mother and sister lean over him, turning, bathing him, laughing out loud. How he kisses the hand that dabs at his mouth, calls LaVerne, LaVerne, whispers beautiful.

First appeared in Late (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2003)

2010 Cecilia Woloch
Cecilia Woloch was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the September 2010 Second Sunday Poetry Series